There is a guy out there who jumped into a relationship ready to take care of his sick woman. He wakes up every morning excited to brew a cup of Throat Coat and give the newest natural healing pill to his woman on a bamboo serving tray of warm cereal with wheat germ. Caregiving with love is his mission in the relationship.
We’re guessing you’re not that man.
You got married excited about the doing different things. You had plans to go rock climbing, play golf, eat at every new restaurant, catch all the new movies and go dancing. Doctor hopping wasn’t on the list.
Yet, life throws curves better than Roy Halladay.
Whether your wife, child or somebody close to you, becoming a caregiver is difficult. The pressure to be optimistic and prove your love to the outside world is palpable. But you are a caregiver because you care. That doesn’t mean an illness, expected or not, won’t be difficult. The needs of the ill loved one affects you as well, not to mention your schedule and responsibilities that don’t end simply because you decided to care for another.
Guy Magar, Hollywood director, producer and writer whose credits include Battlestar Galactica, The A-Team and La Femme Nikita, understands. His life needed to adjust as his wife successfully battled acute myeloid leukemian (aml-leukemia), a cancer of the myeloid blood cells.
Carole Brody Fleet lovingly supported Michael, her late husband, over two years with his battle with ALS. More commonly known to Americans as Lou Gehrig's disease. She's very aware of how much stress being a caregiver creates no matter how much you love somebody.
“There can be feelings of resentment involved; as well as frustration, irritability and most of all, an intensifying of fear and anxiety on several levels; ranging from the practical, financial concerns, to the emotional, the possibility of loss, the toll on the household, etc,” said Carole about her struggles. “The one biggest mistake that I initially made as a caregiver was not accepting help when it was offered. I saw accepting help as being a failure.”
Afterwards, Carol wrote Widows Wear Stilettos and started a company by the same name to help women with deceased spouses.
Others, like Lisa Romano, have been a caregiver multiple times. Dealing with multiple illnesses can make you feel overwhelmed, isolated and often times as if you’re losing yourself to the needs of others she explained. Now helping other through www.healingyourselfesteem.com, Lisa adds you need to plan something special for yourself for at least 20 minutes a day.
As Guy felt his life shift, he created his own roadmap on how to support his wife. Spending time in the hospital changing the sheets to providing unwavering support, Guy developed his keys to caregiving with love.
1. Be the trusted advocate.
No matter the illness, the medical journey to heal is lengthy and complicated, especially if the battleground is cancer. It is important to make sure you understand the treatment and have all questions answered. If you need to research various options or get second opinions, make it happen. If you need a clinical trial, find it. If the patient is overwhelmed or can’t focus, they must feel and know the caregiver is the responsible advocate and is knowledgeable of the best possible medical journey. If they do, they will feel protected and loved, and thus empowered to just focus on their part: the healing.
2. Become the cocoon around your loved one.
Every day I’d get into Jacqui’s bed and we’d hug tightly as she’d wrap herself around me while we chatted or napped. I always made sure she felt totally surrounded, completely cocooned, by my love, my strength and my positive attitude. As a caregiver, you have to supply that grounding, that safety net. As caregiver, you must be the unmovable rock of strength and security.
3. Don’t just be present, be a partner.
You work as a team. Be there and support them with any and all treatments from MRIs to IV line cleanings. An unspoken team partnership is crucial for caregivers to bring to the table and for patients to rely on. It was my commitment to make sure Jacqui felt her partner was engaged with the journey 24/7. She knew it, she felt it, she counted on it.
4. Keep them active and involved.
Sometimes it’s playing a CD of oldies but goodies and getting up to do some crazy dance steps to get a laugh or better still to get them to dance even if it means they’re standing on your feet because they are too weak to stand on their own. When you’re ill, the world feels like it’s closing in. It’s important for the caregiver to keep enlarging the boundaries and keep the patient involved with the outside world. Jacqui, who worked in women’s retail and was not familiar with daytime TV, really enjoyed watching Ellen when I started putting it on as she saw women celebrating life…laughing and dancing every day. The will to live and being active with the outside world is crucial therapy.
5. Arrange for small doses of one-on-one time with special friends and family.
Have a special friend come over for ten minutes to an hour (depending on how your loved one is feeling that day) and occupy yourself with a task nearby. If you need to regroup, grab a coffee with a friend or get on the phone with a college buddy. Do whatever it takes to remain strong, clear-minded and balanced. Your own good mental outlook is crucial to your partner. The caregiver must become the dependable all-around partner for the patient